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The Data Dictionary’s Media Resource took center stage at two compelling presentations at the RESO 2023 Spring Conference. Both sessions highlighted that it is time for the real estate standards community to make some upgrades to account for advances in media technology.

The first presentation, “Making the Case for Prioritizing Media Update Standards,” came from Michael Wurzer, President at FBS. Wurzer noted that the Web API Add/Edit endorsement creates the potential for any system to update listing data fields. He proposed pushing media into MLSs the same way. | WATCH VIDEO (7:00)

Wurzer made the case that prioritizing media directly responds to broker and MLS business needs, particularly with the innovation happening today in media. Prioritizing media could also speed adoption of update standards overall by paving the way for organizations to develop new licensing and permission processes.

Adding media like photos, virtual tours, documents, floor plans, etc., is a big part of what MLSs do today. It would be more efficient for MLSs to have a mechanism for third parties to update to the MLS. Most listings are being photographed by professionals, and they could have systems in place for uploading media to the MLS that reduce time spent doing the task while also minimizing data entry errors.

Another issue is that access to media upload is often not available until after the listing process is complete. This can make it more difficult to auto-populate descriptive tags for the media with AI or machine learning.

Intellectual property (IP) rights of photos and other media present their own set of challenges, but an IP trail could be applied to show who owns and has rights to it. It’s not a very standardized process today, but it is possible and could be contained inside the MLS system. Take for example, private media. With an Upload or Update media standard, what should remain private becomes clearer.

Changing workflows will be important to streamlining that process, and Wurzer laid out the technical case in the image below.

Media - Technical Case

Wurzer suggests that building the process at the MLS/vendor level for things like approving a vendor, permissions and authentication can be done with this use case.

In addition to photos, MLSs increasingly need to account for videos, virtual tours, floor plans and more.

Wurzer contends that combining his technical case with the Media Upload Alternative business case, established by his colleague, Cody Gustafson, Director of API Development at FBS, creates a win-win for the industry.

Said Wurzer, “This is something we can move real quickly on as a community and deliver a real business value and technical value to everyone.”

The next day, Matt Fowler, Executive Director at Triangle MLS, and Dan Ray, Director of Product Development at California Regional Multiple Listing Service (CRMLS), expanded on the topic in their presentation, “Thinking Big About Media in the MLS.” | WATCH VIDEO (13:00)

Both Fowler and Ray are implementing more video into their respective MLSs with a company called WellcomeMat. This begged the question of how MLS and technology leaders should think about providing rich media like floor plans, audio tours, 3D/360 videos, virtual reality and more to their customers – and how standards can make that easy.

Consumers want rich media. A 2020 National Association of REALTORS® survey indicated that 73% of homeowners say they’re more likely to list with an agent who uses video, and 58% of buyers want and expect to see video of a home they are viewing online. According to Ray and Fowler, the MLS industry is not meeting the mark.

They contend that none of the ways that we can currently do video in the MLS is ideal. Representing video (or other non-photo media) in the Data Dictionary has been challenging. VirtualTourUrl fields and the Media Resource are not covering all bases for rich media.

Embedding media in the MLS was historically avoided because files were too large, but that is mostly no longer an issue.

“I’m clear we made the right decision then, given what we knew,” said Ray. “It’s just time to do a rethink.” 

VirtualTourUrl Fields: The name implies a use case, which Ray says is unfortunate. The Data Dictionary only has one set of virtual tour fields (Branded / Unbranded). Many providers add additional sets, which creates more nonstandard confusion. The payload definition should be agnostic about the content and not necessarily a virtual tour. To support other kinds of videos, custom fields are being created. So a data consumer is getting separate video links and they are all called a virtual tour when that is not the case.

Media Resource: This resource says “Media” but it is mostly about photos. The MediaCategory lookups (Agent Photo, Branded Virtual Tour, Floor Plan, Photo, Unbranded Virtual Tour, Video, et al.) collapse content types with use cases and have the same issue as VirtualTourUrl. The MediaType lookups (mov, jpeg, mpeg, pdf, png, quicktime, wmv, et al.) imply that there’s a downloadable item, which isn’t always true. In the future, this type of media will come from a third-party vendor, so do we really need to know the file type? The value of extensions is not very strong and is probably obsolete, said Ray.

Media-Specific Metadata: WellcomeMat provides video auto-chaptering elements which are often represented by ticks on a progress bar. Chapters can be room names like kitchen, living room, etc.

“The chaptering data – we don’t have a place to put that in the standards,” said Fowler. “And also we don’t have a place to put things like analytics. One of the driving reasons to bring media into the MLS compilation in the first place is so we don’t lose those viewer counts, linger times, all of those analytics that we now have to pay for on some foreign video content site.”

Bringing these kinds of analytics into the MLS makes the data accessible and possibly even shareable through an API like the kind we discuss in the Internet Tracking Workgroup, creating more product richness for subscribers and consumers.

Added Fowler, “This is content that can be monetized and redistributed out through proper channels. Adding an enormous video library and the analytics that go along with that feels valuable to me going forward.”

Other rich media types will have their own metadata. It would be useful to have more camera data, for example. Ray and Fowler called upon the Research & Development Workgroup and Data Dictionary Workgroup to revisit the topic of rich media, and soon.

Ray referenced Wurzer’s talk from the day before, specifically about how Web API Add/Edit could support the IP chain on the way into the MLS. But he went a step further, suggesting that it should be able to support the IP chain on the way out, too.

Ray talked about the Permission lookup, noting that there is a helpful Public and Private delineation in place. But for the documents use case, he says that permissions aren’t binary. He said that if we’re going to be complete about documents, there are actually three levels of permissions around documents:

  1. documents that can go out on IDX
  2. documents that need to stay with agents
  3. documents that need to stay with parties to a transaction, representing

In regards to ownership and copyright of media, Fowler cited situations where floor plans get uploaded that came from a builder when neither the uploader or builder had rights to that media. He said that this is similar to photos, and we should have standards around that.

Growing standard solutions to handle media beyond photos presents many opportunities for MLSs to increase their value proposition.

If you or a colleague want to join the conversation around media and the MLS, and your organization is a RESO member, contact to join the Research & Development and/or Data Dictionary workgroups.


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